losing its vocational print shop, which had been training the inmates in
skills that had become obsolete in the age of the LaserJet.
But the overall impact on the inmate population will be, in the polite phrasing of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, "significant."
"You tell me, when you went to college or school, how valuable was it to have a teacher in front of you?" San Quentin public information officer Lieutenant Sam Robinson told SF Weekly last month.
There's been plenty of outrage about the pending layoffs, which have been in the works since September.
educational programs for inmates would increase the state's recidivism
rates even further, and end up costing taxpayers more in the end.
Service Employees International Union, which represents the state's prison teachers, is suing the state over the layoffs.
In an interview with SF Weekly
earlier this month, CDCR's Elizabeth Siggins said the state is trying
to focus the remaining education resources on the inmates most likely
to re-offend.This means educational programs for female inmates are
the biggest cuts, since women have a lower risk of recidivism.
now, the wait list for prison educational programs is first-come,
first-serve, Siggins said. After the layoffs, inmates will get priority
on the wait-list depending on how they scored on tests assessing their
risk level and their need, as well as how much time is left before
To stretch classroom hours to cover more
inmates, some will only go to class part-time, and will complete the
rest of their work independently in their cells or in the prison
library. Volunteers and inmate peer tutors will also be used to fill
"These changes are going to help us be more effective," Siggins said.
Don Cronk, who served more than 25 years in San Quentin for murder, had a different opinion.
it, most of us go in there because we're dysfunctional. We didn't have
good study habits or work ethic or whatever. It was the example of the
teachers or the instructors, the interaction, that prodded us to strive
and go on and get through it," Cronk told SF Weekly.
education programs played a crucial role in Cronk's successful attempt
to prove to the parole board that he had been rehabilitated, a story
chronicled in detail last month on This American Life.
changed my entire life," he said. "Without it, I doubt I would be
released, and I doubt I would be in the position I'm in."
The teacher layoffs were supposed to go into effect at the end of January,
but they were postponed a month as the state continues to negotiate
It doesn't help that teachers are being laid off according to seniority, not according to how effective they are, said Jody Lewen, executive director of the Prison University Project at San Quentin, an independently-funded non-profit that will not be affected by the cuts.
who have had direct exposure to the quality of the education inside are
aware that there have been terrible problems with quality control,"
Lewen told SF Weekly.
"California prisons are like one
massive failing urban education system. It's always been public school
in hell. There's no oversight. There's no accountability."
With the cuts, she said, "It's like a really dilapidated house burning to the ground."